32. An anniversary worth celebrating.

My friend Andrea called me on Monday to let me know that it was the 12th anniversary of the day that she first understood the empowering force behind the Habit of Becoming Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable.

On that day 12 years ago she had been visiting the home of her neighbor, an elderly lady named Gertrude. Andrea had undertaken to keep an eye out for Gertrude and to stop by from time to time to make sure she was looking after herself.

They had been sitting in Gertrude’s living room, quietly enjoying a cup of coffee when Gertrude chose to share with Andrea her thoughts on the evils of smoking. Andrea, like many smokers, had made several unsuccessful attempts at quitting and each time, after experiencing some early success, had convinced herself that it was okay to “have just one.”

Those of you who can relate to Andrea’s experience know that it is never just one, it is merely the first one, soon to be followed by the second, the third and so on.

She described to Gertrude how difficult the challenge was, how stressful each attempted withdrawal had been and how she was beginning to doubt whether she would ever be able to rid herself of this harmful habit.

Gertrude revealed something surprising about herself. She confessed to Andrea that many, many years ago she too had been a smoker – a three pack a day heavy smoker – and like Andrea she had quit many times, always to go back for “just one.”

One day, after yet another failed attempt, she began to wonder what she could do to minimize the discomfort that accompanies this first few days, or even weeks, after quitting.  She came to the realization that were she to have any hope of achieving this milestone, she would need to teach herself how to become comfortable with both the triggers that ignited her craving as well as with the cravings themselves.

She began telling herself she needed to be grateful for those cravings as each craving served as evidence that she was moving closer and closer to her true desire to become a non-smoker.

She replaced the feelings and anxiety that had previously accompanied the cravings with feelings of comfort and gratitude and created an image in her mind that the day of freedom – from all cravings – was becoming closer and closer.

In Gertrude’s mind that “Freedom Day’ drew constantly closer, and the feelings of comfort and gratitude grew stronger. She woke up one morning and just knew that the great day of freedom had finally arrived and has never felt even a twinge of desire for a cigarette since.

Gertrude went on to explain the only way she would free herself of the chains that bound her to her habit would be by becoming comfortable with the discomfort that the cravings would certainly bring.

And on August 12, 2001, while sitting in Gertrude’s living room, Andrea vowed to adopt the Habit of Becoming Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable.

She has never lit a cigarette since. She told me that the more comfortable she became with being uncomfortable, the further apart and milder the cravings seem to be until, after a few short weeks they disappeared completely, never to return.

For the following nine years, on August 12, she would take Gertrude out to her favorite restaurant to celebrate another cigarette–free year and to discuss the magic that accompanies the Habit of Becoming Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable.

Sadly, Gertrude passed away shortly after their ninth celebratory dinner and Andrea has marked this day for each of the past three years by visiting the cemetery and leaving a “Thank You” card at Gertrude’s gravesite.

A teary Andrea asked me to write the story as a tribute to the woman whose teachings had “extended my life by 20 years.” Every time she faces a challenge she thinks of the words of the kindly lady who taught her about the Habit of Becoming Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable and her determination to overcome the challenge grows by leaps and bounds.

The Habit of Becoming Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable – a truly powerful tool for removing barriers to success.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

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